The Secret Origin Of How I Became A Liberal

UPDATE: So you have an idea of how the timeline below shakes out, I was born in December of 1977 and I’m currently 35.

The first thing I can remember, politically, is the Iran-Contra hearings. At the time, I didn’t really care about the details, my major concern was that finally somebody named “Oliver” was in the news and he wasn’t a British street urchin. Unfortunately, he was also some kind of criminal. So that stunk.

superman-secret-originI didn’t pay attention again until the Clarence Thomas hearings and the first Gulf War. I remember not being impressed with Thomas’ speech about a “high tech lynching” but I’d be lying if I said I had the same visceral dislike of him that I do now.

I certainly was in favor of the first Gulf War. I collected editions of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel with front page stories about the buildup and eventual war. I remember watching a Peter Jennings ABC News special talking to kids about the war. In many ways, the first Gulf War formed my view of how the U.S. can go about armed interventions – a clear mission, an international coalition, overwhelming force – the opposite of our second war there. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I paid attention to the 1996 election, it was the first in which I would vote and my mom – who I would describe as some sort of far-left person economically who still thinks I’m too conservative on that topic – raised me to be a voter who is informed about the people and parties they vote for. I remember ads about the Dole-Gingrich Congress, and I remember flashes of the debates, etc. and I did proudly vote for Clinton that fall.

But I wouldn’t say I was really into it. It’s hard from my current vantage point to remember it, but while I wasn’t apathetic, I also was not knee-deep into politics like I am now. In other words, I was probably like a normal voter.

Then the Republican Party attempted to remove Bill Clinton from office for having an extramarital affair.

To this day I can remember watching the votes for removal, wondering what the hell was wrong with this party that they could jeopardize our Constitution in order to settle a political score.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton made me into a partisan Democrat. I leaned left, but I might have been open to Republican ideas if they hadn’t made such a spectacular public display of their callous disregard for our founding documents. Even today, the idea of impeaching Clinton – for having an affair – makes me see red.

Little did I know it would get worse. The stolen 2000 election – both the GOP’s coordinated offensive to stop the counting of votes combined with the Democratic Party’s spineless performance – made me into a hardcore Democrat.

From day one of his presidency, I viewed Bush as a sort of usurper. Others in his party had won the White House in my lifetime, but neither Reagan nor his father had oozed into our oval office in that manner.

Then 9/11 happened, and like most good Americans I lost my mind for a little bit. I can remember sitting watching the smoldering ruins of Ground Zero on TV for hours and hours. I remember waking up and just staring at the TV in the middle of the night, wondering when the next shoe would drop and wanting to hear our leader do the right thing. For me, at that moment, I was willing to let bygones be bygones with Bush. Honestly.

And for a little while, he did what I still believe was the right thing – demanding that Afghanistan surrender Bin Laden, then invading when they refused.

Then they started talking about Iraq.

As I wrote on my blog back then – I was more than willing to support some sort of action against Iraq if the Bush administration could have ever credibly made the case of a connection to Al Qaeda.

I read everything, everything I could get my hands on at the time attempting to make the case. I made sure to watch Colin Powell’s UN presentation because I felt that if anything were to convince me, they would have laid it out at that time.

Nothing. I said out loud at the time at the conclusion: “That’s it?”

We were going to war while engaged in global battle against Al Qaeda for horrible reasons. It didn’t make any sense in 2003, and it makes even less sense in 2013.

The Bush administration’s push for war in Iraq, combined with the propaganda they and their allies promoted across multiple platforms and dovetailed with a domestic agenda designed to give the powerful free reign over our society while eradicating the safety net constructed and strengthened by both parties, is what made me into a liberal.

Before the Bush years I was more quick to support military solutions to problems, and while I think they must often remain a viable option, I can’t ever forgive Bush and his allies for the THOUSANDS of Americans who died for no reason, let alone the innocent Iraqis whose lives perished for his failure to lead.

Before the Bush years I supported a lot of the center-right Republican-lite economic policy promoted by Democratic groups like Third Way and the DLC. The Bush years showed me that those ideas, combined with a conservative belief in limited oversight and intervention, was a complete disaster.

The destructive powers of conservatism, on issues foreign and domestic from 2000-2008, ages 22-31 for me personally, are what made me into a liberal.

I’d still argue that I’m definitely not on the “far” left on the real world scale (conservatives insist anyone to their left –including a majority of American voters – is on the “far” left, no matter how moderate they are.)

I consider myself an FDR Democrat (or maybe a Teddy Roosevelt Republican.) I support strong military force when necessary, government oversight of private industry, and a well-funded social safety net to help those in need (which is also cost-effective over the long run for society). I believe in the free market – when it is well policed from the outside. I believe in entrepreneurship and making wealth, but I also believe in people paying their fair share as part of a collective society and giving each of us at the very least the opportunity to succeed.

I believe in the American dream and giving everyone a shot at it and defending it until the last man or woman’s last breath.

You know: Truth, Justice, and the American Way.


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  • joseph2004

    “… (conservatives insist anyone to their left –including a majority of American voters – is on the “far” left, no matter how moderate they are.)..”

    No they don’t.

    I’m not sure what, exactly, about Democratic/Liberal philosophy you ascribe to. Much of what you say at the end (“…What I believe in…”) could just as easily be a conservative talking. Most conservatives I know have no problem with a safety net for those in need, government oversight, free markets, entrepreneurship, and wealth building. It’s when the “safety net” becomes a vehicle to get votes (such as Obamacare’s healthcare subsidies to an average family of four with $90K income), or government “oversight” that “encourages” or incentivizes banks to sell risky loans that then lead to a meltdown of the housing industry, that rankle.

    Your devotion to the Democratic Party seems based less on Liberal philosophy than it does on a few key-moment events and personalities, and it’s not clear, when one gets into the weeds, just which party did and didn’t have a hand in causing all sorts of havoc at any one time.

  • kfreed

    Well, Oliver, I guess that there makes you a Communist.

    [snark alert]

    Seriously, you’re making too much sense. Stop it;)

  • B_stein

    Why must voters be lumped into categories and/or groups? I was at one time a Republican, but Dubya and the lying, traitorous, war and Israel crazed Neo-Cons, kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm. So I became an Independent. IMO the DemoPubs are pretty much the same corrupt, scoundrels anyway.

    Here are some of my feelings on certain key issues of the day-
    1. I am for small government and low taxes. I would slash our insane military budget, close foreign bases and stop meddling around the world. I would cut the incredible amount of waste in Govt. I would also eliminate our expensive Prison-Industrial complex. And legalize drugs, also saving trillions.

    2. I am for a strong social safety net, and would support programs to help the poor and needy. I could lower taxes on the middle class, thus helping them, whilst still being able to fund the social welfare programs via the savings in military spending, elimination of the prison-industrial complex, drug legalization, and govt size reduction.
    3. I would also address the wild income disparity in this country, not wanting it to become like Brazil or Philippines, places where I have lived. In Japan, and most all other countries, a CEO makes approx 35 times the salary of normal employee. In the USA, this figure is 400 times! This 1% controlling 90% of wealth BS has got to go.

    So tell me, what political party could I join with those beliefs?

    • dbtheonly

      I would point out that everyone I know is in favor of “cutting the incredible amount of waste in Government”.

      One man’s waste is another man’s “vital Government service”.

  • Terencio Monclova

    Yeah, Clinton was prosecuted for perjury the same way the civil war was about state’s rights.

    • dbtheonly

      Except, of course, it was.

      But then you get to the next question. The State’s Rights to do what? The only answer is, “Hold Negroes in bondage”.

      It’s simply in the ante-bellum South; the politics, economy, society, everything is tracable back to slavery. Whatever you call it, however you describe the issue is slavery.

      As for the Clinton impeachment; I must admit trying to ignore the entire thing. On one hand you had the President of the United States acting in a particlarly tawdry manner. On the other hand you that the Republicans with their faux outrage. I had better things to do with my time.

      • B_stein

        Clinton should have been impeached. He is a lying, adulterous, corrupt, weasily, scoundrel, and unfit to serve the American people. Scary thing is, Dubya makes him look good and honest by comparison. Dubya actually lied this country into war on false, cooked up, pretenses, urinated on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and has the blood of thousands of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, pouring from his hands and dripping from his mouth.
        Get over the DemoPub thing. This country needs a revolution to save it.

  • bigtunatim

    Fifteen years later and Republicans still don’t understand what perjury is. I too left the GOP during this shameful episode and haven’t looked back.

    • B_stein

      I could not have cared less about the impeachment. It was just DemoPub politics as usual. I left the GOP because of a crazed, psychopathic, madman, with the last name Bush. Who defecated on the US Constitution, intentionally lied the US into a senseless war, has the blood of American troops dripping from his hands, and gave US foreign policy over to Dick Cheney and his motley band of Likudnik, Israel first, war crazed, lying, traitorous, Neo-Cons.

  • Brian Asklund

    Interesting that you decided to leave the Republican party because they wanted to impeach Clinton “for having an extra-marital affair”. Anyone paying attention at the time understood that it wasn’t about the affair, it was because he bald-faced lied under oath about it. It’s called perjury.

    • Christopher Foxx

      Why was Clinton’s private sex life it taken up as a matter for investigation by Congress in the first place?

    • Christopher Foxx

      Anyone paying attention at the time understood that it wasn’t about the affair

      Of course it wasn’t. It was about having a Democrat for President.

    • KT Kacer

      It’s called they did not have the ‘right’ to ask.

    • Keith Moon

      Actually, the Republicans set a perjury trap which Clinton skillfully avoided. This drove them even more insaner with rage so they ginned up the impeachment, which again found Clinton to be NOT GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES.

      You are entitled to your (informed) opinion, but not to your own (repeatedly proven false in open court) facts.

  • SaveFarris

    No wonder your politics are so effed up: your most seminal political moment is a lie. Please point out exactly which Articles of Impeachment was for the high crime of “affair”. You can’t, because “It’s the perjury, stupid”.

    • Christopher Foxx

      Why was it something that Congress really needed to look into anyway?

      You in favor of government small enough to fit into people’s bedrooms? Is it Congress’s role to investigate the people’s private sex lives?

    • Carrie Nichols

      If Clintons impeachment was “really” about perjury, then Bush would have been impeached. History shows that republicans just can’t stand it when there is a Democrat in the white house. Let’s also not forget that the one bringing up the charges with Clinton was having multiple affairs behind his wifes back. So, should the democrats have asked him about that? It really wasn’t a secret for those in DC.

  • Christopher Foxx

    I believe in reality and facts, so clearly I can’t be a Republican.
    I believe in standing strong for what you believe, so I can’t be a Democrat either.

    I’m a liberal because I believe in fairness and facts.

    • B_stein

      Finished patting yourself on the back? ;-) probably 90% of my positions are more in line with “liberal” thinking. Where I part ways is- I am for smaller govt and lower taxes. I’m not sure one could properly be called a liberal in that case. At least the stereotypical liberal, who is all about larger govt and higher taxes.

      • Frank Cuffman

        A lot of liberals are against spending on the military and defense.
        Many of them are also against tax policies that tax interest income less
        than W-2 income(i. e., lowered taxes for workers, higher taxes for the

        If you’re one of those, welcome aboard.

  • Repack Rider

    I am a liberal because my parents inspired me with their compassion and patriotism. They met while building Liberty Ships for WW II.

    If you are patriotic and compassionate, the only political position possible is liberal.

    When Eisenhower first ran for the presidency in 1952 I asked my mom whether she planned to vote for him. She told me the reason she wasn’t was because Nixon was a crook. She said that in 1952. The rest of the country took 20 years to catch up.

    • Frank Cuffman

      RR, my father protested Nixon when he visited the San Jose State campus in the early 50s’ so your mother wasn’t alone in her liberalism.

      • dbtheonly


        My Mom participated in the integration sit-ins of the 1950’s.

        • B_stein

          My Mom was Emma Goldman and incited many riots in her day.

          • dbtheonly

            The 1869-1940 Emma Goldman?

  • Ol Froth

    Very well written Oliver. I think your thoughts reflect similarly to those of many others who’ve made that journey, although I myself have always been a lefty, I have in the past supported Republicans, such as Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania, although he’d have probably been purged from the party had he lived.

  • dbtheonly


    Bully. Though I think you’d find President Roosevelt (R)’s foreign policy rather too interventionist for you. I really can’t see TR allowing either Iran or North Korea to get away with this bull(bleep).

    I fully endorse the idea the Government’s proper role is to balance the negotiating power between competing groups, capital & labor, rural & urban, industry & consumer, & such.